LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Volk on Heather Grabbe's "Getting the EU's Enlargement back on Track"
EU leaders took a historic decision on the Balkans last December by ignoring the Commission’s recommendation to start membership negotiations with Macedonia. This had never happened before, although in 2008 Macedonia was refused entry to NATO despite meeting the necessary criteria. On both occasions the reason was the same – the name dispute between Macedonia and Greece. To date, most Balkan countries have been held back because of their inability to meet membership criteria and have urgently needed a political push to proceed towards Euro-Atlantic integration. But in Macedonia’s case it is just the opposite; it has met all the criteria, but EU countries still need a push to allow Macedonia enter the EU. We may be facing similar situations in other Balkan countries. This is bad news for the region and for the EU and NATO too. In the past, membership candidates lacked credibility, now both sides do.
With this in mind, the standard EU carrot and stick policy in the Balkans is becoming rather ridiculous. Firstly because there is no certainty that fulfilling criteria brings any results, and secondly because carrot and stick policies don’t work in multi-ethnic states like Bosnia and Herzegovina. The carrot for one ethnic group may be the stick for the other, and vice versa. This is why the recent attempt by the international community to promote constitutional reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina has fallen flat on its face. We have a problem if the EU still believes that a "speak softly and carry a big carrot" policy is the most appropriate foreign policy in the Balkans. The Balkan region is simply overwhelmed by carrots and sticks, and nobody really knows what to do with them. What possible carrot can the EU give to Macedonia other than what Macedonians have already earned?
The question of Turkey lurks at the bottom of every EU enlargement issue. For almost three decades, Turkey believed that to enter the EU it should make the necessary reforms. Now, some of the EU’s most prominent politicians are saying that reforms are not enough. But if Turkey ticks all the right boxes why can’t it enter the EU? The EU is being turned into an exclusive club, and this development is sure to impact the way the EU faces up to the new challenges of energy security and general security, along with the challenge posed by the emerging Chinese version of capitalism.